Monday, November 30, 2009

Old Age, Sickness and Death

Today when I woke up in the morning, I had a very strong feeling of something. Every knows that old age, sickness and death is something that cannot be avoided. It is the central theme of the Buddhist teachings. That 'something' that I felt is old age, sickness and death. It was not just superficial or intellectual. I felt it in my skin and bones that we are all so very vulnerable to these three 'demons'. We are all powerless to them. So that was the feeling I had, i.e. I felt most vulnerable. It was a 'terrifying' feeling.

The only way out was to take refuge in the Triple Jewels, i.e. our true Protectors. I assume this was the same feeling Prince Siddhartha had when he saw the 4 signs, and left the palace in search of an answer to this powerful vulnerable feeling he had. He found the answer and shared it with us. How wonderful! We need not re-invent the sheel, so to speak, and re-look for it somewhere else. Could this be a Lam Rim realisation as Pabongkha Rinpoche described it albeit a small one? Khenchen Rinpoche have said that our dharma understandings must be felt, not just intellectual understanding. I am happy if it was a sign of spiritual progress even if it was fleeting. I am not sure yet. Hopefully I take this message from the Protectors to heart that I must practise as taught by them. But I also realise perhaps this 'feeling' came about as a result of practising Guru Yoga meditation. Guru Yoga is truely remarkable if that is the case. And I have to thank Rinpoche for that wonderful meditation. At last, I have found my meditation!

But I am disappointed with my wife who are still worrying over small mundane matters and cannot 'let go'. On the surface of it, she does seem innocent to many people, but looks can be deceiving. Ultimately there is only so much I can do to help people. If they do not want to be helped or stubborn, then even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot do anything. So they will continue round and round in samsara forever and ever. If people do not wake up to their senses and start practising the dharma and attain complete enlightenment, then problems will forever beset them. If they continue to be blind-sided by short-term problems and issues, and cannot learn to let go, then I really do not know what else to do. I am not yet a Buddha, ...I can only help as a sentient being in limited ways. Anyway, I'll stop here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The concept of "Halal" in Buddhism

Many Buddhists are not aware that there could possibly be such thing as "halal" and "non-halal" in Buddhism, but with some difference. The word "halal" needless to say is an arabic word commonly used in the Islamic religion to mean...

"...lawful or legal... is an Arabic term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law. It is the opposite of haraam." Wikipedia.

We are not going to use that meaning of "halal". But we are borrowing that term and interprete it according to Buddhist precepts and morality. Hence, a halal food according to Buddhism is a food that does not involve killing and fulfills at least the 4 minimum criteria mentioned by the Buddha in order for a meat to be considered "pure".

As for halal shares, that would be shares of companies that do not involve directly or indirectly on activities that result in committing the ten negative deeds (akusala karma). Hence, if you want to be free of akusala karma, buy only shares that are from companies that promote the ten positive deeds (kusala karma). But negative karma is not just generated from their activities alone. We also got to see how the company treats its employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders (including the environment). If a company is known to be abusing its employees, then even though its products may be wholesome or 'halal', but seriously, the company is generating unwholesome karma daily if it's involved in damaging the environment or other aspects. And everyone who works or supports its products, indirectly supports the abusive behaviour continuously. So the concept of 'halal' must also be looked at from various angles, not just the company's product or main activities.

Furthermore, due to the fact that different motivation and other factors of the actions will result in different intensity of the karma, the halal concept in Buddhism will need to have a multi-tiered halal-ness (instead of just two choices: halal or haram). In Buddhism, it's not just black or white. There are many shades in between. So we must recognise that. In applying it to food, vegetarian food will be considered more halal than meat food. And organic vegetarian food will be even more halal than normal vegetarian food. However if a tantric practitioner can transform a meat and actually benefit the animal, then whether it is halal or not, it doesnot matter anymore. This same principle can be applied in determining the halal rating for a business corporation. In Buddhism, concept are meant to benefit sentient beings. If you can benefit beings regardless of concepts, then concepts become meaningless and you can set it aside. It's like the Buddhist saying that the boat is only for ferying you across the river. Once you have crossed it, you can abandon the boat. You don't carry it with you.

So we can see an important point here about the concept of halal in Buddhism. It is not a straight jacket, i.e. either something is halal or it is not. There are various "shades" of it in between. And it is also not something that if you donot follow, you will be punish or you are condemned. In Buddhist, it is not forced, i.e. the choice is left to the individual. We create our own karma, be it good or bad. There is no holy book in Buddhism that determines for us what is always good and what is always bad. If an action results in negative karma, then Buddhists consider that "not good". If vice-versa, then "good". It's not so much that specific action itself, but other factors behind the action such as motivation and the resulting condition of the action on others.

The same action involving the same things can create a huge bad karma for one person and very little for another, and none at all for another. The case in point here is a person who eats meat and donot practices dharma nor have any good motivation for animal that sacrificed its meat. The second person practices the dharma and have positive thoughts on animals. At least for this seciond person, the animal benefits by his dharma practice. The third person is the lama who is able to transform the meat and benefit the animal that gave its meat

I can elaborate more on this 'halal' concept from the perspective of Buddhism but this is the gist of it. So as a Buddhist, I will try not to buy shares from Genting, for example, because they are involved in gambling activities. And many persons have lost millions of dollars in their activities and in fact, many people have been known to commit suicide due to having lost so much money in gambling debt. By investing in such companies, we are indirectly supporting those gambling activities and death by suicide. Remember we have not yet included the possibility of the rampant cheating that is supposedly known to be happening daily at casinos. I am not accusing any company of cheating, but we will never know, right? While I am aware that no company (and in fact no one, except the Buddha) is perfectly free from committing negative actions, we must try as best we could at the level of practice we are at.

So sometimes we think that we are good Buddhists but then wonder where do we get all the bad karma from? We don't know because we do not realise the actions that we do are in fact generating little little karmic impact on us. Remember the saying..."tiny drops of water makes an ocean"...something like that? So as Buddhist we must remember and be aware of inter-dependent factors and how everything affects every other things. It's a very dynamic system. A small action can have a huge impact.

I am not sure if you have heard of what I have written on this halal topic from any other Buddhist, but I surely haven't. However, these are merely my thoughts on the concept of 'halal' and what it would mean if applied in Buddhism. Therefore, if you think there is any incorrect interpretation or misapplying the concept, then please share your views. In the meantime, take care and may all beings be well and happy!

Monday, November 23, 2009


This message is as true to Hndus as it is for Buddhists: -

Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba: "Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam, Dustara Bhava Saagara Tharanam"

It means: With all your mind worship at the feet of your Guru, and cross the endless ocean of life and death. Of course, at that time, I had not yet known the concept of guru devotion in Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism. I had other kinds of interpretation of that sentence then, but now I am very clear how the endless ocean of life and death can be ended by devotion to the guru.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Garchen Rinpoche - For The Benefit Of All Beings

This is the extract of the new video on Garchen Rinpoche - an important Drikung Kagyu Lama widely respected by his disciples all over the world.

Another death

Thsi is another death that was reported in yesterday's newspaper. Datuk Patrick Wong's house got entered by robbers and a struggled was believed to have happended and he apparently lept to his death at his hous in Bangsar, a sub-urban area mostly known for wealthy residents near Kuala Lumpur.

Read it here:

Om Mani Padme Hum

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tale of Anguish and Anger

Today I will share with you one true story. But it is not one that was reported in the media. It happened recently. There was this 55-year-old man. I donot know him but was a cousin brother of somebody who related it to someone I know. He lived in a reasonably comfortable house with his wife and son.

But that happy comfortable life changed suddenly last year when his wife died of cancer. He was most upset. With his wife gone, he placed his hopes on his son. All his wealth and money, he willed it to his son. But then, this year his son died suddenly of heart attack. Guess how old is his son? He was only 33 years old. Yes, 33! While I donot know of his life style, 33 is a young age to die.

As he was the man's only son, and only hope left, now gone, his hopes of cuddling grandchildren during his old age are now dashed. With his wife also gone, he is without any life companion. Today he tells people whenever he is in the house, he looks at the four walls. There's no one to talk to him anymore. He does not need to wait till 2012 for the world to be destroyed. His was already destroyed!

He was very angry at the holy statue(s) in his home altar. It was not mentioned what statue it was, whether it was Buddha, Kuan Yin or which of the Chinese gods, or whether there was only one statue or more than one, but he took it and smashed it to the ground. You can just imagine his deep anguish and frustrations, he could not understand why the gods/holy beings did not bless or protect his family. He could not understand why at such old age, he had to suffer such an ordeal. He had lost his family. And all alone now. All his wealth, house (at Yeap Chor Ee Road) and whatever material possessions he has, does not have any meaning to him anymore.

If you had not felt this deep frustrations before, you will only have a vaque idea of how it is like. I must confess here I have felt it before last time. But I am in a better position than this man, for after the deep anger, there arose in me a deep desire to seriously respond to all sentient beings when I become a Bodhisattva one day. I felt some bodhicitta within me that day. I donot know about that man, but I didnot stop believing in the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. I think that man is most vulnerable to conversion to another religion.

So I leave the above story in your thoughts for today. Om Mani Padme hum.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What have Buddhists become?

I am just bewildered that many Buddhists are so ignorant that they could actually believe that gods could enter the bodies of humans and communicate to them. So these ignorant people places their hopes and faith on these mediums who could call upon these gods to possess their bodies and help these humans in their prayers. Then when the so-called gods enter the mediums, they behave strangely and go into a trance.

I am of the view that many of these cases of being possessed by gods, especially the higher gods, are not actually gods. They are more likely to be spirits or ghosts. So people should place their hopes more on Buddhas and Bodhosattavs and other Arya Beings.

I really cannot believe why people should seek favors from these spirits or ghosts? Is it easier to bribe them? Or they simply believe it is the actual god/goddess come from heaven into the body of this medium? I think people are too ignorant. Gods and goddess from heaven have a very bright, clean and pure bodies. They wouldn't want to enter human bodies which they consider as filthy. Some of these gods/goddesses are actually Arhats and great Bodhisattavs. hey donot go around possessing human bodies. Example are Kuan Yin (who is a Great Bodhisattva, not a goddess)and Ji Gong (who is an Arhat, not a god). But these 2 are also popular deities in Taoism. So, they and others become Taoist god/goddesses/spirits. Generally I think the Chinese population donot know how to distinguish what is a god/goddess (deva), a Bodhisattva, a ghost, a demon, an Arhat, etc.

We know it is not at all possible to bribe Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for any favours. Still I will always go to the Buddhas for any favours than to be granted favours by spirits/ghosts. And do you know why? It is because spirits/ ghosts and for that matter any non-enlightened beings (including humans) are susceptible to greed, hatred, jealousy and all ignorance-based emotions. Once you receive favours from them, you are forever at their mercy. If they are good spirits/ghosts, it is not that bad. But how are we to know if they will always be good? Just like humans, they can have a bad day and then we will get it from them. Moreoever, if we are granted our wish, another aspect of our life could possibly be taken away. It is like barter trade. With worldly beings, we get something only in exchange with something else. Our life or the life of our family members could become shorter if we are not careful with favours obtained from these less-than-perfect beings.

Hence for certain favours like asking for babies, asking for promotions, health, etc I will never ever advice anyone to pray to any being other than Arya Beings. Only the Arya Beings are not susceptible to greed, hatred and jealousy. I do offer incense to gods and spirits and even ghosts but I do not pray to them like I pray to the Buddhas and Great Bodhisattvas and other Holy Beings. It's different.

But then I donot blame Buddhists who have no dharma knowledge. But the fault lies with those people who know that it is wrong but still want to deceive the ignorant Buddhist public. The other day I went to this local temple. They are supposed to be Buddhist temple with Buddha statues on their altars and the nun wear the traditional Buddhist Sangha robes. However, on the other side of the hall the temple has an altar for gods and spirits. The nuns collect money from locals and uses paper money charms just like the popular Goddess of Mercy temple in Penang. What is not correct is when the nun conducts the prayers, she does not wear the ordination bhikkuni precepts sash but only wear the ceremonial robes. As far as I know, the proper thing to do is to wear the precepts sash especially when conducting prayers. I donot want to judge left-home persons, but I just want to know what are the chances of success of our prayers if the person conducting it donot have respect for their precepts sash. Also I have been taught that prayers have more chances of success if the prayed by a virtuous person. But it's okay, I will give the nun the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she still has some virtue. But these are the sort fo things people believe in nowadays. There are Buddha images there and they won't pray or offer to them, instead the fruits are offered to the ghost/spirits or devas or whatever the other statues were. From the perspective of a Buddhist like me, this was very strange. But the nun thee, obviously doesnot think it was. What has Buddhism and Buddhists become?

Compare this with another Buddhist abbot in Penang who always wear the Bhikku robes when performing prayers. And the temple never asks for specific sum of money for even their lamp lighting. Anyone can write their name on the piece of paper and put it on the altar. And it is up to you to donate how much you want/can afford. The abbot also don't want to know how much you will donate. He will just ask you to drop the money in the big wooden box in the prayer hall. Unfortunately there are not many of these kind of temples left. A lot of temples fixed a price tag nowadays. Must everything have a price tag? $10 for lamp lighting. $30 for this puja and $50 for that puja. And I don't blame them. That's the way economics work, I suppose. That's the way centers and temples do fundraising. Almost everyone's doing that. If everyone's doing it, it means it's correct, right? And if we do not agree with this way, we are considered not practising the paramita of generosity. LOL! Again, what have Buddhists become?

But what do I know? And what can I do? So I better keep my mouth shut. So you guys can ignore my ramblings.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mahakasyapa and Zen Master Seung Sahn

This is a tribute to a remarkable master whose wisdom can be glimpsed from his answer in the video. Nov 30th marks his 5th year anniversary of his death and I wish I could tell him now that I have understood that the "Don't Know Mind" is just the same as the Mahamudra mind. At that time I donot understand and donot know how to practice Zen. But I am sure he will be proud of me today. And I hope I will be able to keep it up till I am enlightened just like him. I pray sincerely that we will meet again..somewhere, somehow !!!

Question: Is it true that you were Mahakasyapa in a former life?

Zen Master Seung Sahn: Dont even talk about such nonesense. That was a long long time ago. Zen means using your mind clearly from moment to moment. So what if the Buddha appeared, if Mahakasyapa appeared, if all the patriarchs were a bunch of drunks. Those things have nothing to do with with you or me. The only thing that is important is for you to sit here and now, be clear, and work towards enlightment.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Booking A Place in Hell

From the stories above, it certainly looks like there will be 2 more sentient beings who had booked a place in hell, joining the man who had splashed the acid over his wife and daughter few weeks ago (refer my previous post). The man who jumped from his flats has gone there probably, ahead of the other two.

It’s so sad to see people who cannot see the bigger picture and let go, instead of being attached and end up committing huge negative hellish karma. It is better to divorce and spare yourself from booking a place in HELL. Don’t commit any crime in the process of having family problems…it’s not worth it! However, I know it is easier said than done.

When we ourselves are having problems, is our Buddhist practice strong enough to withstand strong emotional upheavals? Are we able to “let go” the Buddhist way? That’s our million dollar question!

If we who are supposedly “Buddhist practitioners” are not able to guarantee ourselves that we won’t kill our spouses or children in any heated arguments/issues, what can we expect of ordinary people without much religious conviction? The way I see it, the only way we are able to sort of “guarantee” we will not do those evil actions is when we have genuinely gained the realizations of “Lam Rim” especially the lower scope graduated path. That’s why many masters have stressed on the graduated path nowadays. We need to thoroughly ground ourselves in the Lam Rim paths before practicing tantra. Otherwise it will be like building castle on soft soil. There will be a risk of land erosion/land slide, and then your castle come tumbling down. By writing this, I am reminding myself as I share it with others too. Om Mani Padme Hum.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

2012 Destruction - WHAT IF?

Referring to the movie "2012" and the Mayan prophecy, whether the Mayan or others' prediction is true or not, it does not really matter to me as a Buddhist. As a Buddhist, we are suppose to be aware of impending death anytime. Only with this awareness, will we strive and put in effort in our Buddhist practice. Otherwise, this life will be wasted away.

Should this "end of the world" on Dec 21, 2012 be true, and we are told of it in advance by the world leaders (which is unlikely as they probably donot want everyone to panic), I am going to share with you all what I think I will do in my last few weeks on Earth.

For one, I will stop work and go on a pilgrimage trip to all Four Buddhist Holy Sites as well as the other four holy places of miracles associated with the Buddha in India as well as in Nepal. Besides that I will visit all the other holy stupas and Way Places in India and Nepal. I will also visit the Four Sacred Mountains in China and pay homage to the Great Bodhisattvas there. And not to forget all the holy monasteries and stupas in Tibet and China such as Ganden, Potala Palace, Drepung, Sera, Samye, Drikung Thil and many others.

Coming home, I will convert the rest of my money into something I can barter trade for food post-destruction (if I survive). Notes and coins are very likely to be worthless then. And I don't think keeping gold bars are practical because they will like to be stolen very quickly. Maybe grains and rolls of cloth. These could prove to be useful for others even if I don't survive.

And as the D-day approaches, then what? If I can't be at any of the holy sites then, I will be at a mountain or hill doing my Guru Yoga meditation. I think that thinking of the guru is the best thing to be doing as impending death approaches.

Regardless of whether Pentagon or the White House is keeping secrets or not on any impending "Dec 21, 2012", it is important to prepare ourselves mentally and keep in mind the bigger picture, i.e. life does not end with the destruction of Earth. Birth and death will continue on and on. That's for sure, until liberation is achieved. It is said that only 1/3 of the world will be left remaining on Earth post-destruction, and if you are one of those survivors, think again - are you lucky or unlucky? There will be a lot of suffering for the survivors. Isn't it better to strive for rebirth in the Buddha's Pure Lands and wait there until the world is rebuilt again? Or, better still if you can remain in the Buddha's Pure Land. Normally having gained rebirth there, you don't go anywhere else after that, unless you want to come back to samsara to help sentient beings...or, to continue your bodhisattva training there.

By the way, if I am not wrong, only the Buddhas' Pure Lands will be spared of destruction at the end of the kalpas. It is said that even the heavens of devas and angels will be destroyed at the end of the kalpa. So, don't strive to be reborn in the heavens at that time. The only safe place is the Buddhas' Pure Lands.

So, this piece has been about my thoughts and response as a Buddhist to "2012 destruction - What if it really happens". What about you? What do you plan to do?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vajradhara Lama

The concept of Vajradhara Lama as I found out is quite pervasive within Vajrayana. Vajradhara Lama is our main Root Lama and we visualise him in our merit field as well as during our Guru Yoga practices. All our gurus comes from him, and thus he is the actual Root Guru. Pabongkha Rinpoche expanded it to include Sakyamuni and Je Tsongkhapa. And so he refered to it as "Lama Losang Thubwang Dorje Chang".

Can it be expanded further by including one other deity and one Master and calling him Lama Kyobpa Losang Gyalwa Thubwang Dorje Chang?

Hahahaha....!! Quite a mouthfull. But it's okay. And so shall it be!! :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Tragic Accidents

There had been more tragic accidents in the last one week. 3 school children was swept away by the river when the hanging bridge they and the rest of their camp friends wer standing on collapsed and drowned. That was in Kampar. And yesterday, it was reported that UTAR students were swept by the waterfall river and drowned. That was also somewhere near Kampar. A few days before, a young boy was also swept by the river current and died. His two friends were so scared that they didnot tell anyone about the accident. One boy even skipped school. It was found out only after the school teacher and her mother managed to persuade the other boy who went to school. He cried and told them what happened. Then there is the eye specialist, Dr Marcus Lim (37 years of age) who had apparently suffered a heart attacked while scuba diving at Pulau Aur. He was said to be the son of the famous Penang lawyer - the late Mr Lim Kean Siew.

Read these links:

These are all tragic cases involving water. It reminded me of an accident involving a former colleague fo mine who had also drowned at a waterfall in Kedah. I take this opprtunity to pray for all these victims and for them to take rebirth in Amitabha's Pure Land.

Namo Amitabha Buddha